Don’t look now, but the Patriots are on the verge of history

Nashua Telegraph, January 2005

By Marty Karlon, staff writer

Say it. Go ahead. It’s easy. D-d-d . . . dy-dy . . . dyn . . . STOP.

You better wait. You don’t want to jinx anything.

But if things work out the way the Las Vegas oddsmakers and Bill Belichick expect, we’ll soon be lacing our recollections of Super Bowl XXXIX with the D-word. That’s right: Dynasty, baby!

(Oops. You didn’t hear that.)

A recently as Sept. 30, 2001, the New England Patriots headed onto the field as a team of sad sacks who had gone 14-21 in their previous 35 games and were playing with a quarterback making his first NFL start. With a win tonight, the team will join the rarified air of three-time Super Bowl winners and earn an eternal place in barroom arguments over the greatest football teams of all time.

It’s easy to forget Clive Rush, Rick Sanford and Scott Sisson when things have gone so swimmingly well in recent years. But Patriots fans, spoiled as they may be, are still heading into uncharted water with this talk of the D-word.

To help put things in perspective, here’s a quick guide to dynasties and where the Patriots stack up historically:

Dynasties have been around throughout recorded history: The Egyptians of the Middle Kingdom, the Meiji Dynasty in Japan, the Montreal Canadiens, the House of Windsor in England, the International House of Pancakes. Dynasties are a fact of life.

Where the Patriots wind up on the big list of dynasties is up to them. A win tonight would put the team slightly behind the 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers and the British Empire, but well ahead of the Assyrians and the 1976 Cincinnati Reds.

It’s about the people: Rameses II, Vince Lombardi, Blake Carrington, Ferdinand and Isabella, Frank Perdue. Every dynasty needs someone to get things rolling, to set the tone, to build something worth fighting for.

The Patriots clearly have that in Belichick and Tom Brady.

Not all dynasties are created equal: The San Francisco 49ers won four Super Bowls in nine years with a core of charismatic hall-of-fame skill players. The Washington Redskins won three over 10 years, but no one ever talks about the Redskins because they didn’t win any titles back to back and used three different quarterbacks.

It’s the same with China’s Han Dynasty, which was far superior to the Ming Dynasty , but doesn’t get any respect because its vases weren’t as nice.

The no-name Patriots will have a tough time overcoming this particular hurdle and may need to make the Eagles look as irrelevant as the Maginot Line tonight and/or win a few more Super Bowls before they get their due.

Wannabe dynasties: Not every potential dynasty turns out to be the real deal. Many simply flame out as quickly as they rise to the top. Like Napoleonic France. Or the St. Louis Rams. Or Alexander the Great (the man and the movie).

A win tonight moves the Patriots from the quasi-dynasty level of Incas to the are-they-the-best-ever plateau with the likes of “Seinfeld.” Not that there’s anything wrong with the Incas, mind you.

Dynasties need a foil: The Yankees had the Red Sox , the Steelers had the Cowboys, the Germans had France and the Celtics had the Lakers (who also wrapped a pair of lesser dynasties around the Celts’ 30-year run).

The Patriots have two, count ’em, two foils in the Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers, also known as the second- and third-best teams in football. (Kind of like the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires were the second- and third-best autocracies in Europe in 1914).

And it’s not just the teams. Several players, led by Peyton Manning, have become foils in their own right.

Dynasties need motivation: Even giants need a little push sometimes, but thankfully there are always people like the French admiral who said he didn’t know the name of the guy he’d be fighting at Trafalgar or Gen. Custer, who claimed the Sioux were “ripe for the picking” at Little Bighorn.

Thanks to Mike Vanderjagt and Freddie Mitchell, the Patriots have this one covered as well.

Not all dynasties end well: The ’60s-era Packers and Yankees spent considerable time in the wilderness after their title runs. The Romanov Dynasty also ended up in the wilderness, literally – riddled with bullets and tossed in a well.

And “Dynasty” was canceled.

The Patriots could face a similar fate if Brady falls down a flight of stairs or some of the guys decide they’ve had enough of winning and take the money and run to Cincinnati or Washington, much like what happened to “ER” when Anthony Edwards’ character got sick and George Clooney left the show.

But those are thoughts for another day. Sit back. Enjoy the game.

And get ready for the D-word.

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